Redwood Nine Ch. 10byRoyceConnors©
Travellin' Men Pt. 1
Monday was a return to the normal world and work. JT was helping Jake remove a transmission from a '61 Ford Ranchero, while Piney and Clay were working on separate vehicles. Jake kept his eye on everyone, watching how they worked and how they worked together. The phone rang and without asking, JT went over and answered it. He wrote down the information and hung up, then came back to the job.
"Another job, JT?"
"Yeah, Mr. Kanter over on Freemont wants his car repaired, but needs it towed in. Told him we don't do towing yet, but we'll be happy to do the work, if he brings it in."
"You know, I need another wrecker. I'm losing work, because I don't have one that works right, but I was too busy working, to drop everything and even start picking the cars up anyway. Even with Clay here, I was hard pressed to work in the office, fix cars and drive a truck. I'm thinking we have enough guys now, that a truck is a good thing to get. You guys hear of a good half or three quarter ton, hopefully a duellie, let me know. I know where I can get my hands on a used wrecker to put on it. The bed doesn't matter, just the chassis and cab. Oh, running well would be nice too."
"Look no further, Jake. I know just where to go to find one. I'll talk to Wally tonight and ask him to get a hold of, what's his name...oh yeah, Uncle Tom. This guy knows where to get everything, he says, so let's see if he's as good as his word."
"Okay, let me add one more thing to the list. Not stolen. All I want is a decent truck to put a unit on the back and that's it. I'm only looking to spend a few hundred on it at best, but I got to have the title, or all bets are off."
JT and Piney understood the need for legalities in this situation and wondered if Tom did know of legal sources of enterprise. Thoughts of tow trucks were dashed from their thoughts, as the roar of a Harley came into the lot. The big smile showing on the rider, meant only one thing, Chico was back. He raced up and as usual, waited until the last minute, before hitting the back brake and skidded up to them sideways. He flipped his bike to the side and got off, going straight to JT and then Piney, hugging them both happily. He went to Jake and respectfully offered his hand and smiled at him. Jake took it firmly and pulled him to a hug, clapping him on the back.
"Welcome back, Chico. Glad to see the ride was okay. No troubles?"
"A pleasure, Senor Jake. The bike, she's okay, but I heard a little rattle happening in the back somewhere. I was just passing Modesto when I first heard it."
Jake knelt down and began looking Chico's bike over, shifting moving parts to see what could make the noise. He checked the tension on the chain and it was extremely slack.
"This might be the cause of it. Holy shit, Chico, the tension nut is gone. You, my boy, are one lucky son of a bitch. This chain could have jumped off the sprocket at any time and seized the wheel."
To stress his point, Jake picked the chain off the sprocket easily, showing how close Chico came to ending the ride differently.
"I'm not saying the way you ride this thing is wrong, Chico, but if you want to come in my lot and ride the way you do, make sure you ain't going to kill anyone, when you hit the brakes and expect to stop. What I'm saying, is take better care of this bike. If you ride with the guys in a club and your bike screws up, every guy behind you can be involved if you lose it. Remember that, all of you. Lone riding is one thing, but club riding is totally different and I explained this to you before, I know I have. Everyone from JT back, depend on the bikes they ride and the ones they ride with. Not a good thing to carry with you the rest of your life, knowing a brother is badly injured, or dead, because you didn't take care of your ride and endangered everyone with it."
The speech silenced them all, knowing every word Jake spoke, was an invaluable truth to them. The point of riding as a club and respecting it, depended on each member doing his part. JT knew a rule had to be made, regarding the safety of each bike that rode in the club. When lives were in the balance, every precaution needed to be taken care of, before engines were started and the formation rolled out onto the road.
"Clay, go see if you can find a nut to fit this and make this thing rideable again. No way I'm allowing this bike to be ridden, until it's fixed. Might as well go and relax, Chico, you're not going anywhere, until it's right."
Chico had no objection to staying put, his ride to Oakland done and answers were forthcoming to their enterprise. He shook Jake's hand and thanked him for his kindness and assurance his bike would be safe to ride again. Chico slowly walked away aimlessly towards the clubhouse, so Jake gave JT and Piney some time off to go talk to him and catch up on things. It would be lunch time soon enough, so a little more time off wasn't a problem.
JT went over and opened the door and they went in. The bay door opened wide and JT and Piney showed Chico what had been accomplished so far. He was impressed with what he saw and what was in the works. Once the tour was over, they went and sat on the chairs and couch, lighting up cigarettes, then JT filled him on all the things that had happened and the need for new rules to be made. He explained that he would have to stick around town for a few days, so they could have a full club meeting about everything. Two more guys were being considered, Clay being one and needed his approval to be accepted, as well as the patches being prepared for them.
Chico agreed and said he would stick around, as long as he had a place to crash and park his bike. He just got his run money, so he was carrying his usual several hundred dollars. It didn't take a stretch to tell him a room at the motel would be easy to get for him and his bike would be with theirs. Chico's smile was broad and well felt, as he heard things were moving forward, despite the troubles faced so far. He said he knew of the El Locos and had passed them riding a few times. He said they left him alone and never bothered him on his runs. Whether it was his ethnicity, or the fact he wore no colours, or patch, that they gave him a clear road to run. He didn't get any trouble from the Disciples, but they seemed unhappy with his presence on the same road as them. What all of it led them to, was the main question that needed to be asked, were they in business to ride?
"You guys are going to love this. I talked to my guy in Oakland and told him how many bikes we had, that we could do this and he said he'd talk to our guy in TJ, who would let us know if it was good. I fucking rode the whole way there man, wondering if Luis was going to be pissed at me, or if he would say fuck you and never come back, or say sure, let's do this. Fucking relatives, man. They act like the big shots on both sides of the border, but I'm the one running all of this shit. Without me, they have nothing but a lot of space between two points. Only thing is, Luis grows it and Manuel sells it. If either says no, I get the stick with the shitty end, you know?"
JT and Piney were still waiting for Chico to give them the answer, but figured that many hours alone, he just wanted to talk to someone and they let him have his say.
"So I get to the border, my cousin is sitting at the truck stop and he has this look on his face, like he wants to kick my ass. I think, fuck you Luis, what's wrong with me bringing in more business? I get off my bike and walk over to him and stand in front of him, you know and like, look at him the same way he's doing to me. He stares me down and then he smiles at me and hugs me. I'm not sure if he has a knife or he is really happy to see me, so I'm getting ready for him to move on me and he looks at me, still smiling at me, so I'm thinking, okay, what now. Fucking Luis, gilipollas sits me in his truck and tells me he has over a ton of weed to move and more is coming. He needs it out of Mexico and up here mucho pronto. I said we could do it at a two hundred per rider, he says one hundred, like I get now. So I say, Luis, you need it moved, I have it moved, but it takes more money and the ride is getting dangerous."
JT and Piney both acknowledged the present danger of gang violence and continued listening, to see what Chico managed to get them. Even if it was still one hundred per run, it was good money to bank and get something started for the club.
"He says, how dangerous? I told him about the new gangs forming and everyone wants a piece of what we have already. I told him guns were being carried and if they want me to ride loco weed north for a hundred per run, they could find someone else who wanted to put their life on the line for it. This wasn't just going for a long ride anymore man, this was trying to get through enemy territory and I had enough of doing that in Vietnam. So my cousin looks at me and gets it through his head, that what he can make moving all that weed and what it's going to cost per rider, he smiles and says sure, let's do it. So guys, do we have the bikes?"
Cheers were shouted out, then quietened down, when the plan was set and dreams were becoming realities.
"Sure do, Chico. Piney and I are on the road and running great. Already did a good run, so we know they're good on the road. Keith and Otto are good and Lenny is looking for bags. You know, I had another thought we might hit your cousin with."
"What's that, JT?"
"This was all about motorcycles running it up to Oakland, but what about a car? We could move way more shit that way per run."
"Okay, I see what you're getting at, man. You thinking of Wally?"
"Yeah. His car is running pretty good now and I think it could make it down and back with no problems. I mean, think of that huge trunk and how much we could put in it? He could carry as much as us and more. We could ride as protection and use ourselves as a distraction. Everyone will be looking at all the bikers, but they'll miss the guy in the old car just driving along, minding his own business. We happen to get pulled over for some reason, or another and they find nothing on us and Wally just keeps going like he doesn't know us. We catch up later on and make it to Oakland and unload where your other cousin wants us to take it to. No one suspects a thing."
"So how do we do the transfer from down there and get it into the trunk? Don't think Wally's car can make it where we have to go. Don't have a bike, you ain't getting there, unless you walk."
JT thought for a moment.
"How hard would it be to make a couple of runs from where you meet your cousin and somewhere Wally can park. We can carry it to him and load him up and then he heads out first and we follow a mile behind."
"Yeah, yeah, that could work. Not hard for a bike to get through one at a time, single file. Wally can park at a spot I know of. No one can see him, if he sits there and we can make the runs. If we have big enough bags, we can carry it all in one run back and forth."
"I wonder how much Wally's car can handle, before we decide to load it up? That's the last thing we'd need. Wally busted down, with all the weed in the trunk."
That thought was left for the meeting to be answered. With Chico caught up with everything, he reached into his vest pocket on the inside and pulled out a joint.
"Latest crop, might as well see how good it is."
Chico lit it up and drew in deeply, then passed it to Piney, who did the same, passing it to JT. They sat and savoured the smoke in their mouths, judging the taste and how it was making them feel. Nods were given and they sat and consumed it, relaxing on the furniture, feet up on the drywall table.
Wednesday was the day of the first official meeting of the club. They all gathered after work hours and JT shut the gate and locked it, making sure there were no interruptions. Jake was off to see Marlene for dinner, so they knew he was settled for the evening. They opened beers and toasted the clubhouse and the club, then JT took control, as he sat at the desk and the others milled on, or around the furniture. All of the issues were discussed about Chico's news and new rules set down about bike safety. Otto said the patches would be ready by Thursday night and all they had to do was bring in a cut and the guy would sew them on. No one had any new issues to discuss, so JT called the meeting over and slapped his palm on the desk. Friday was their first day to ride as one, to ride as a brotherhood, to ride as the Sons of Anarchy.
Jake had a visible worry on his face, from the moment they announced the ride. He couldn't begin to tell them things to watch out for and always stay together in a group. JT could see it was more like a father seeing his boys go off for the first time, than a stranger telling them to have a nice trip. He wished they'd gone out with him first, so he could show them the rules of the road, how to act as one at all times. He did his best in the time available, to give JT and Piney all the tips and thoughts he could think of, doing his best to make sure the trip was safe and they got back whole.
Friday morning came and bikes began pulling into the lot. One by one, the line of bikes grew, until everyone was there, present and accounted for. Jake, for his part went to each one and gave it a thorough going over, making sure things were tight and secure and no leaks were happening. The guys were in the clubhouse with Chico, going over the route and the destination. He explained how the hand-off worked with him and how to pack their bags properly for the ride back. The one thing Chico was most concerned about, was the ability of the guys to ride for such long hours.
It was five hundred miles there and the same back and he was concerned that they might not be able to handle riding for up to sixteen, or eighteen hours straight. JT, Piney and Lenny knew the last time they ever endured anything of that duration, was back in 'Nam. This was a lot less stressful than jungle warfare and less exhaustive physically, so they didn't feel the need to worry. Keith said he was used to long rides and missed them, having spent so many hours crossing America. Otto was the only one who was unsure of longevity in the saddle and decided this would be a test of his endurance and see just how far he could make it.
"You know how you see me doing things on my bike and you think I'm like, showing off and thing, but mostly what I'm doing, is stretching and relaxing on the ride. Once you guys get some miles behind you, you'll feel better on your bikes. You'll know how it balances out and moves to your body, so you learn to do things and keep it straight, that way you don't have to keep stopping to work out stiff muscles, man. That shit hurts, you know?"
They understood Chico's reasoning for his stunts, but they were sure they wouldn't be doing any Flying Crosses any time soon. With everything said, that could be said, it was time to head out. The guys walked out of the clubhouse to their bikes and Jake was there beside them. JT locked up the building and stood beside Jake, before he went to his bike.
"You take good care of these boys, JT. They're depending on you to get them there and back, remember that, son. If you run into any trouble out there, call me, you got my numbers, doesn't matter the time, just call, I'll be there as soon as I can, okay?"
JT saw the worry from Jake caring about him so much and what he was ready to undertake. His eyes were swelling with emotion, trying to remain stoic, but just underneath, everything he felt for JT and his club members, was ready to gush forth from him. Knowing that same feeling inside his own heart for Jake was ever-present, he just hugged him tightly, then felt him respond in kind and they held in bond, no words to express what they felt for each other. Assured of themselves, Jake held onto JT's arms for a moment longer and looked at him.
"I'll be here waiting for you to come home, you just make sure you get here, understand."
"I will, Jake. I promise."
They hugged one more time and JT went to his bike and sat on it. He looked down the row of riders, waiting for his signal and he stuck his finger up and twirled it, to tell them to start up the bikes. One by one, the heavy metal horses were brought to life and readied to ride. When JT felt all the bikes had been warmed up enough, he clutched and put it in gear. He looked at Jake and nodded confidently to him and started the inaugural ride. One after the other, they pulled out and followed JT out of the gate and on towards 99.
JT was up at the lead by himself, Piney and Lenny behind him, then Chico and Keith behind them and Otto riding at the back solo. The tanks were full and ready to make the first leg of the journey, to where the first gas stop and food was scheduled. JT pulled off Kettleman Lane and took the ramp onto 99 and the highway became theirs. JT twisted the throttle and took them up to sixty and began cruising, the others staying close with every move. The riders settled into their seats and got comfortable, as the miles of highway to travel, stretched out before them. Canteens were brought to drink water if they were thirsty and not have any reasons to stop and take more time than they needed.
Otto rode at the back, his view, one that made him smile with pride. For everything that JT didn't see, Otto did. Six riders all moving simultaneously as one, six riders wearing a common patch on their backs. He looked at his artwork personified by the addition of the club name across the top and California as their home. He took his left hand off the grip and felt the rectangular patch on the left breast of his cut and knew it said Redwood Original, then the one on the other side that said First Nine. Otto seemed to sit a little taller in the saddle after that, his height making him the shortest member of the club, but still one who garnered respect in other ways.
Everyone seemed to be more aware of themselves, as they rode in formation and not a car passed, without at least one face turning to stare at them. It gave them a sense of being, not as an unrecognizable person, but someone who belonged to a group of individuals who acted as one. Their strength was in their numbers and every man contributed to the power they possessed.
The flat land made the ride easy on the bikes, as each one purred its tune to the RPM they revved at. The meandering highway became boring, the mountains off to the right, just a never-ending line on the horizon, while to the left, large expanses of flat land were either irrigated to bear fruit, or lay dry and barren in the sun. Every rider wore dark shades to ward off the glare of the sun, as it reflected off cars and the steady haze it left above the road's surface.
Chico sped up a bit and pulled alongside JT and pointed at the exit that was coming up. He knew from experience, that this station fill up guaranteed him enough gas to get there and cruise around, before the trip back. It also gave everyone a chance to stretch and get the blood flowing to idle body parts again. The road signs indicated they were only thirty miles, or so from Bakersfield, making some happy they had made it this far already. Chico led them to the truck stop and pulled in the lot. He rolled up to the pump and greeted the attendant, who he knew well from his many runs.
"Chico, buenos días, mi amigo. Como esta?"
"Eh, muchacho. Brought you lots of business this time. This is the club I was telling you about. We need six full tanks, amigo and we'll see you on the run back tomorrow."
Fernando smiled happily, knowing his sales for the day, just became better, than they were looking before. Chico waited until the last tank was topped off and he peeled off a twenty and a five and told Fernando to keep the change of three dollars. They parked their bikes and went into the diner at the other end of the lot. Stares and looks were immediately given to them, the moment they walked in and none were an invitation to sit and join them. They ignored the visual threat and went in as a group, their numbers warding off any notion of verbally attacking them.